NY Times - Deflation Experiments Show Patriots May Have a Point After All

The New York Times


Thomas Healy does not have tickets to the Super Bowl, but he plans to fly to Phoenix with something that is even harder to come by than seats at Sunday’s game: the first detailed, experimental data on how atmospheric conditions might have reduced the air pressure in footballs used by the New England Patriots in their victory over the Indianapolis Colts nearly two weeks ago.

Those footballs, which the N.F.L. has said were deflated to pressures below league standards, have created a national meta-bowl whose outcome is seemingly as important as who wins on Sunday. The question driving the public dialogue is whether the Patriots tampered with the balls to make them easier to handle, or whether simply moving them from the warmth of a locker room to the chill and dampness of the field could account for the deflation.

The Patriots have absorbed a beating in that larger contest, with many scientists concluding that only the surreptitious hiss of air being released from the balls could explain the difference. But now the Patriots have started to rally, and in a big way. Healy, who provided The New York Times with an advance copy of his technical paper on the experiments, concluded that most or all of the deflation could be explained by those environmental effects.

“This analysis looks solid to me,” said Max Tegmark, a professor of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who reviewed the paper at The Times’s request. “To me, their measurements mean that there’s no evidence of foul play.”

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